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NORTH KOREA: American boy on mission to DMZ

An American boy hopes to meet leader Kim Jong Il to pitch his idea for a "children's peace forest" in the demilitarized zone. Jonathan Lee, 13, who was born in South Korea and lives in Mississippi, was to fly today from Beijing to Pyongyang with his parents, the family told The Associated Press. They said North Korean officials in Beijing gave them visas last night. Jonathan said he expects to meet with North Korean officials and will propose the children's peace forest, "one in which fruit and chestnut trees would be planted and where children can play." "We know, it sounds crazy," said Lee's mother, Melissa. "When he first said, 'I think we need to go to North Korea,' I looked at my husband and said, 'What?' It was a radical idea."

IRELAND: Pope rejects resignations

Pope Benedict XVI has rejected the resignations of two Irish bishops who came under heavy pressure to step down following a damning report on clerical sex abuse in Dublin, Irish media reports said Wednesday. Auxiliary bishops Raymond Field and Eamonn Walsh tendered their resignations in December after a government-backed investigation found evidence of widespread cover-ups involving cases of priestly abuse in the Dublin Archdiocese from the 1970s through the 1990s. In a letter seen by Irish news outlets, Archbishop Diarmuid Martin informed fellow clerics that the Vatican had decided not to accept the two bishops' offers to step down. The Vatican's decision was swiftly denounced by victims' groups as further proof that the church is more interested in protecting its own than atoning for past sins.

RUSSIA" Nuclear peril in wildfires?

Wildfires threaten to stir radioactive particles left over from the 1986 Chernobyl nuclear disaster back into the air over western Russia, and authorities boosted forest patrols Wednesday to keep the flames from contaminated areas. Environmentalists warned that the dust could be harmful, though doses were likely be small. Six wildfires were extinguished this week in the Bryansk region, which suffered the most in the Chernobyl accident.

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